But God has so composed the body giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

1 Corinthians 12: 24, 25

 

People tend to grant respect and honor to others who have certain skills or who hold positions within our society that we look up to. This is a normal aspect of structure and of order in our world. Granting this sort of deferential view to those who take on responsibility for the well-being of the whole is even a part of God’s plan and design for the way that our cultures can operate smoothly and peacefully. Yet, like so many of the things that we do in our humanity, this holding up of some people for special honor can get our of balance and become troublesome and even divisive.

 

When individuals within the church are held up as superior to others by virtue of their position of authority or due to the role that they fill, damage can be done to the entire organization. Now, I am not saying that we should not respect the authority of leaders that God has called and established in those essential roles. However, I am saying that even these pastors, teachers, elders, deacons, and bishops are not to be held in greater esteem or granted greater respect than are others who may serve the body in less obvious and widely visible ways. In the body of Christ, His church globally and locally, all of us are given gifts by God and each of us is called upon by God to use those gifts for the sake of the functionality and effectiveness of that church and to demonstrate these gifts for Christ’s glory in our world.

 

If you are granted a simple or a humble gift, then use it with confidence and with joy as an offering of yourself to God. If you have been given one of those more public and outwardly noticeable gifts, then hold it as the precious outpouring of Christ’s love upon His body that it actually is, and use this gift in order to focus all praise and honor upon the One who gave this great blessing to you. Each and every one of our spiritual gifts and all of our capacity, skill, and talent is something that God has poured into each person as a part of His careful and purposefully creative crafting of us. We are made to bring the Gospel of Christ into our world in ways that are accessible and real, every person is made in God’s own version of His image for this purpose, and we can each live out our lives at peace with who we are and in the confident expression of our giftedness while we also value and honor the same in all others.

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

1 Kings 18: 21

 

This is a hard moment in the history of the people of Israel. Ungodly rulers are leading them into evil ways and unrighteous actions, and they are quietly and passively going along with it all. Admittedly, defying the king or queen would almost certainly result in a very unpleasant outcome, but even the fear of death is for them a failure of faith. These are people who have heard the stories of various miraculous and wondrous ways in which God has saved and preserved their ancestors. Yet, they live in the compromised state that Elijah describes here. Instead of expressing the beautiful and fluid worship practices that are directed to the Lord, they go about in the broken cadence of people who do not know who they are and do not worship any one true god.

 

We do not live in those times. Our nations are not created and designed as theocracies, and our rulers are not the direct appointees of God. They are not intended to establish and guide the spiritual tone and tenor of the land. Yet, there are some striking similarities between the times of Elijah and ours. The challenge that the prophet threw down for the people is still valid today. There are only two paths through life that we can choose. We either choose to follow God, which means that we become committed disciples of Christ, or we follow the ruler of this world and make ourselves into disciples of Satan. I admit that those words sound hard and harsh, and there is much in this life that we encounter that is not absolutely clear.

 

However, when it comes to making our fundamental decisions about what is right and worthy and what is wrong and outside of God’s plan for His people, the only direction that a follower of Christ can go is to submit ourselves to our Lord. His will is found within the pages of His Word, is brought to light through committed prayer and meditation upon that word, is given support and encouragement in the fellowship of Christ’s body the church, and is strengthened and developed as we enter into the struggle of life with the truth and love of the Gospel as our banner. This is not an easy choice to make. But, if Jesus is Lord and He is God, then there is no other path to choose than the one that engages in full-on and total discipleship to Christ.